Monday, 25 January 2016

Action on Fruit

It had to happen. Once the hysteria about sugary drinks took hold, it was only a matter of time before fruit juice came under attack. From there, it was only a short step to attacking fruit itself. The Atkins Diet fanatics who are the grass roots of the anti-sugar panic have a particular bee in their bonnet about fructose because they once saw a video by Robert Lustig. Lustig's bête noire is high fructose corn syrup, but fructose is obviously in fruit; the word means 'fruit sugar'.

A campaign against fruit is therefore the logical conclusion of the crusade against sugar, but since demonising fruit would test the patience of all but the most credulous members of the public, few campaigners have gone down that road.

One of the few is the chap in the video below, Garry Fettke, an Australian orthopaedic surgeon who runs a website called No Fructose. He says that fruit has been pushed on the public by Big Food using 'one of the greatest marketing campaigns of the last 25 years'. He says we have been 'fooled by nature and fooled by the food industry'.

It is, by any standards, a remarkable speech. Like many people who fear the modern world, he relies heavily on appeals to nature. Low carb people have a thing about hunter-gatherer societies and they assume, quite bizarrely, that 'natural' means 'healthy'. Since neanderthal man only had to access to fruit for a few weeks each year, they assume that seasonal fruit is probably OK. The rest of the year we should only eat buffalo or something.

Every food faddist needs a catchphrase. Lustig's is 'sugar is alcohol without the buzz'. Malhotra's is 'fat is your friend'. Quite wonderfully, Fettke's is 'fruit is confectionery on a tree'. He begins with what he calls 'a little bit of history' but which is actually the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

'Adam and Eve started it all when they plucked that apple off the tree and that turned us from immortal to mortal. That piece of fruit was advertised by the serpent - the snake - to be better than it actually was and we continue to hear that advertising message. Fruit continues to be advertised as better than it actually is... it advertises itself by being brightly coloured, shiny, sweet and attracts the wild life.'

Later in the talk he makes a reference to that other great historical figure, Snow White, but the real hilarity comes after 25 minutes when he starts favorably comparing Coca-Cola to various fruits. He is right to say that sugar content by weight is the same or higher in many popular fruits, but that is only shocking if you consider a can of Coke, with its 139 calories, to be terribly dangerous.

This is what the 'public health' lobby does believe, however. They usually try to wriggle out of the comparison by muttering something about fibre in fruits being good for you or by making a scientifically meaningless distinction between added sugar and intrinsic sugar. Fruit does indeed contain fibre - although there are more plentiful sources of fibre available - but it is a sideshow if you believe that sugar is toxic/addictive/poisonous etc. Fettke is the one being logically consistent here and Action on Sugar are not. By being consistent he inadvertently highlights the lunacy of the anti-sugar mania.

Confectionery on a tree?! What a time to be alive.

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